Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

Freedom of the Press 2009 - Singapore

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 May 2009
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Singapore, 1 May 2009, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 24 (of 30)
Political Environment: 23 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 21 (of 30)
Total Score: 68 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.

  • The constitution grants the freedoms of speech and expression in Article 14, but also permits restrictions on these rights.

  • There are strict defamation and press laws, and the government vigorously punishes the press for perceived personal attacks on officials. As a result, the vast majority of print and broadcast journalists practice self-censorship, and many expect increased restrictions for online content in the future.

  • In September, a court found the Far Eastern Economic Review guilty of defaming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, after it published an interview with opposition leader Chee Soon Juan. The case, which dated to 2006, was decided by summary judgment and never went to trial. Two months later, the Wall Street Journal Asia was judged to be in contempt of court and fined S$25,000 (US$16,500) for publishing two editorials and a letter to the editor written by Chee.

  • In September, blogger Gopalan Nair was sentenced to three months in prison for accusing a High Court judge of "prostituting herself" during a hearing to assess damages in a successful defamation suit filed by the family of Lee Kuan Yew against an opposition newspaper.

  • During Singapore National Day celebrations on August 17, Prime Minister Lee announced that the government would ease the ban on political videos and outdoor public demonstrations. He said podcasts, videocasts, and other election materials would be allowed in the next general election, although he cautioned that "made-up material, partisan stuff, [and] footage distorted to create a slanted impression" would still be off limits.

  • Films, television programs, music, books, and magazines are sometimes censored.

  • Foreign media in Singapore are subject to many of the same pressures and restrictive laws as domestic outlets.

  • Nearly all print and broadcast media outlets, internet service providers (ISPs), and cable television services are either owned or controlled by the state or by companies with close ties to the ruling People's Action Party.

  • Though Singaporeans generally have unrestricted access to the internet, it is monitored and subject to the same laws as traditional media. All ISPs must be licensed by the government. The internet was accessed by 67.4 percent of the population in 2008.

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